Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I started my first day in London with a bacon and egg sandwich and an hour long visit in a bookstore filled with cookbooks.

Basically, that was my idea of heaven!
Enjoy breakfast and a latte at Mike's Cafe in Notting Hill.

On Thursday, I met a friend and her mom in Notting Hill (while hubby was working in the London office). We chatted over a leisurely breakfast and then strolled over nearby to the bookstore, Books for Cooks. The shelves of this darling store, which was recommended by a U.K. friend in Istanbul, are lined with thousands of cookbooks.

Although I could easily have spent hours here, I had a mission of sorts. I had a list of several English cookbooks I wanted to find. The staff assisted me in my mission and provided other recommendations as well. (Tip: The store can ship to anywhere in the world.) In the end, I settled on only 3 books: Jane Grigson’s English Food, British Food by Mark Hix and The Eagle Cookbook by David Eyre and the Eagle chefs.

Running through the center of Notting Hill is Portobello Road. The restored buildings here are reminscent of a Caribbean village with bright hues of turquoise, coral, peach and banana yellow. On Saturdays, the street turns into an outdoor market and is quite crowded, my friend told me.

This lively neighborhood is filled with several antique shops; an Indian fabric and pashmina store; a Spanish grocery store filled with chorizo, cheese and other food items; quaint cafes and coffee shops; and jewelry and trinket stores.
One of the clothing stores was filled with hundreds of antique sewing machines.

One of the antique shops on Portobello Road.
There's also a wonderful cupcake bakery called the hummingbird bakery.

As we passed by the bakery’s window filled with cupcakes, I knew I had to stop in and check it out. To me, cupcakes are very American, and something I rarely see in Istanbul except at Starbucks. The display of cupcakes looked very Easter-like in a range of pastel colors. I bought a chocolate sponge cupcake with buttercream frosting and a red velvet cupcake with a cream cheese frosting. (One cupcake actually made it back for my husband to try!) They were delicious!

For lunch, we had a prix fixe Italian meal at Mediterraneo, located just off Portobello Road. For £14.50 for 2 courses, we each selected the mozzarella, tomato and basil salad and penne pasta with Arrabiata sauce. For dessert, we shared a simple, but well-made panna cotta with fresh berries. These dishes may be Italian classics, but the restaurant prepared them perfectly.

Later in the afternoon, my friend had to leave to pick up her children at school. I continued to wander around the neighborhood and strolled down Kensington Church Street toward Kensington Gardens. Trees were filled with spring blossoms, and many buildings had colorful potted plants hanging outside.

Since my bags were a bit heavy, I decided to return to the hotel and drop them off. Then, I took a 10-minute walk to see the impressive Westminster Abbey and Big Ben for the first time in my life. 

These are two of the city’s iconic landmarks when I think of London. I didn’t go inside the church because I didn’t feel like dealing with all the tourists in the area. I was content just to walk around, gaze at the buildings and enjoy the cool spring breeze.
Another view of the impressive Westminster Abbey.

To see my map of the shops mentioned in the Notting Hill area, please click here.

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